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Sexual harassment and assault

Topless protester who acted in ‘Cosby Show’ rushes Bill Cosby as he arrives at his sexual assault retrial 

Former child actor gets within a few feet of Bill Cosby but is stopped by officers and charged with disorderly conduct

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 April, 2018, 12:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 April, 2018, 6:14am

Bill Cosby’s arrival at court for the first day of his sexual assault trial on Monday quickly turned chaotic when a topless woman - who had once appeared in The Cosby Show as a child - leaped across a barricade and rushed at him. 

Nicolle Rochelle, 39, who had “Women’s Lives Matter” written on her body along with the names of several woman who claim to have been abused, ran in front of Cosby toward a bank of television cameras but was intercepted by sheriff’s deputies and led away in handcuffs. She was charged with disorderly conduct.

Cosby, 80, seemed startled by the commotion as a half-dozen protesters chanted at him outside the courthouse in suburban Philadelphia.

Rochelle, credited as Nicole Leach, played a friend of youngest child Rudy on The Cosby Show, which ran from 1984-92.

Rochelle belongs to Femen, an international feminist group whose name she had painted on her torso alongside “Cosby Rapis[t]” and the names of other Cosby accusers.

Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt praised deputies for their quick action but urged court officials to increase security. “It’s a different world. Things have changed,” he said. “You never know who’s going to want to make a name for themselves.”

The disruption came ahead of opening statements, which were delayed while the judge sorted through allegations raised late Friday that a juror told a woman during jury selection that he thought Cosby was guilty. Cosby’s lawyers want the juror removed from the case.

Prosecutors have lined up a parade of accusers to make the case that the actor and comedian revered as “America’s Dad” lived a double life as one of Hollywood’s biggest predators.

Cosby is fighting back with a new, high-profile lawyer and an aggressive strategy: attacking one accuser, Andrea Constand, as a greedy liar and casting the other women testifying as bandwagon jumpers looking for a share of the spotlight.

“You’ve seen previews and coming attractions, but things have changed,” said professor Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

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Cosby’s first trial last spring ended with jurors unable to reach a unanimous verdict after five days of deliberations on charges that the man who made millions of viewers laugh as wise and understanding Dr Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show drugged and molested Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

Cosby, who has said the sexual contact was consensual, faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

His retrial is taking place in a radically changed and potentially more hostile environment. The #MeToo movement caught fire four months after the first trial, raising awareness of sexual misconduct as it toppled Harvey Weinstein, US Senator Al Franken, Matt Lauer and other powerful men.

Nearly every potential juror questioned for the case this time knew about #MeToo.

Kristen Houser of the National Sexual Violence Resource Centre said that could help prosecutors overcome the scepticism some jurors had last time about Constand’s year-long wait to report her allegations to the police.

“The #MeToo movement is amplifying what experts have been saying for decades: People are ashamed, they’re confused, they can’t believe somebody they trust would hurt them, and then they worry that others won’t believe them,” Houser said.

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After limiting the focus of the first trial, Judge Steven O’Neill has been willing to let both sides push the retrial well beyond Constand’s allegations.

This time, O’Neill is letting prosecutors have five additional accusers testify – including model Janice Dickinson – as they attempt to show Cosby made a habit of drugging and violating women. The judge allowed just one other accuser to take the stand last time.

“This one will be harder for the defence,” Levenson said. This time, Constand “is not alone, and there is strength in numbers”.

In another difference, the judge this time is letting Cosby’s legal team call as a witness a former colleague of Constand’s at Temple University who said Constand spoke of setting up a “high-profile person” so she could sue and enjoy a big payday. Constand’s lawyer has said the colleague is lying.

The judge also decided the jury could hear the answer to one of the biggest questions hanging over the case: How much did Cosby pay Constand to settle her lawsuit against him more than a decade ago? The two sides agreed at the first trial not to mention the lawsuit.

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Cosby lawyer Tom Mesereau, who won an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child molestation case, said the jury would learn “just how greedy” Constand was.

In a twist, the judge hinted that he might not allow jurors to hear Cosby’s lurid deposition testimony about giving the sedative Quaalude to women before sex. 

He said he would rule on it during the trial. Cosby testified in 2005 and 2006 as part of Constand’s lawsuit.